Art is everywhere

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Rochester Hotel has an ever-changing array of local and regional art, like the photography of Sonya Johnson, whose work is on display with fellow photographers Yvonne Lashmett and MaryAnne Nelson.

By Margaret Hedderman
Special to the Herald

With a historic downtown dotted with as many art galleries as outdoor retailers, Durango is increasingly becoming known for its art scene as much as it is for endless outdoor adventure.

But tucked inside an unexpected storefront – such as a hotel or wine bar – you’ll find an ever-evolving and rapidly growing alternative art scene.

“It’s strong and getting more and more attention all the time,” said Tirzah Camacho, formerly the art curator at Steamworks Brewing Co. “Even the ‘alternative’ spaces are becoming more formal (with) lighting, promotion, regularity and hosting work of a higher calibre these days.”

The Rochester Hotel is well-known for its historic building and Western movie-themed rooms, but it is quickly growing its reputation as a fine arts venue. The hotel has hosted artists for nearly two years, and with a recently acquired liquor license, the owners are hoping to increase the number of receptions and events it hosts

“We wanted to have a place for artists to be able to showcase their work,” said owner Diane Wildfang. “We wanted people to get to know the hotel ... and get (them) in here on a regular basis.”

Not many hotels have their own art curators, but that is the job that has landed in the lap of Rochester employee Merritt Winkler.

“When we started, we were approaching a lot of (artists) – and we still do if there’s something we’re really interested in - but a lot of people are starting to come to us,” Winkler said.

The hotel recently concluded a show with the wonderful mixed-media artist Melanie Kirkpatrick and will soon be hosting the Durango Photography Club, with an opening reception to be held Nov. 30.

There also is no shortage of restaurants in Durango, and art enthusiasts are finding that many are adorned with local artwork. Eno, Steaming Bean, Raider Ridge Café and The Lost Dog Bar & Lounge rotate art on a regular basis. Artists wait up to a year for their turn at wall space.

Local photographer McCarson Jones curates the monthly “Art Spectacle” at The Lost Dog, featuring an eclectic and often bizarre line-up of artists.

“We have loved the experience of sharing art and good food with the community,” Jones said. “We have also really enjoyed the connections we make with artists and their families and friends.”

The Lost Dog is displaying works by local artist Tess Corrinne Jordan.

Camacho said the surprise of discovering art when it is least expected is part of the draw.

“When people walk into a bar for a meeting, mid-conversation they can be struck by their environment and realize they’re enjoying art, inquire, tell a friend, start a conversation, (and) purchase when they didn’t expect to,” Camacho said. “That can be very powerful.”

Alternative art venues not only increase the exposure of local art in the community, but, also, give artists the opportunity to show their work to a wider audience.

“I think an alternative scene is imperative,” Jones said. “Our community is so special in that we have numerous artists in our town and everyone deserves a chance to showcase their work – as long as they believe in themselves and can take the artistic risk of being progressive and taking the step.”

Camacho said: “Art is soul food. It should be everywhere.”

. Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango.

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